Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

An Ego Strategy to Avoid Surrender

--by Eckhart Tolle (Mar 26, 2012)

What is conventionally called “love” is an ego strategy to avoid surrender. You are looking to someone to give you that which can only come to you in the state of surrender. The ego uses that person as a substitute to avoid having to surrender. The Spanish language is the most honest in this respect. It uses the same verb, te quiero, for “I love you” and “I want you.” To the ego, loving and wanting are the same, whereas true love has no wanting in it, no desire to possess or for your partner to change.

The ego singles someone out and makes them special. It uses that person to cover up the constant underlying feeling of discontent, of “not enough,” of anger and hate, which are closely related. These are facets of an underlying deep seated feeling in human beings that is inseparable from the egoic state.When the ego singles something out and says “I love” this or that, it’s an unconscious attempt to cover up or remove the deep-seated feelings that always accompany the ego: the discontent, the unhappiness, the sense of insufficiency that is so familiar.
For a little while, the illusion actually works. Then inevitably, at some point, the person you singled out, or made special in your eyes, fails to function as a cover up for your pain, hate, discontent or unhappiness which all have their origin in that sense of insufficiency and incompleteness. Then, out comes the feeling that was covered up, and it gets projected onto the person that had been singled out and made special – who you thought would ultimately “save you.” Suddenly love turns to hate.
The ego doesn’t realize that the hatred is a projection of the universal pain that you feel inside. The ego believes that this person is causing the pain. It doesn’t realize that the pain is the universal feeling of not being connected with the deeper level of your being – not being at one with yourself.The object of love is interchangeable, as interchangeable as the object of egoic wanting. Some people go through many relationships. They fall in love and out of love many times. They love a person for a while until it doesn’t work anymore, because no person can permanently cover up that pain.Only surrender can give you what you were looking for in the object of your love.
The ego says surrender is not necessary because I love this person. It’s an unconscious process of course. The moment you accept completely what is, something inside you emerges that had been covered up by egoic wanting. It is an innate, indwelling peace, stillness, aliveness. It is the unconditioned, who you are in your essence. It is what you had been looking for in the love object. It is yourself. When that happens, a completely different kind of love is present which is not subject to love / hate. It doesn’t single out one thing or person as special.
--Eckhart Tolle

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On Mar 24, 2012 Conrad P. Pritscher wrote:
 Thank you for the opportunity to respond.  I have two Tollle books and three CD packages. He is wonderful and he has been a great influence in my living.  I am  not  "present" often  but I am more often present because of him.  In some cases "I love" can equal "I want."  Most often  though I see love more as compassion for self and others as Tolle usually does. I have been the cause of other's pain and my pain. Reducing desire has been helpful in reducing pain for me and others. His book, The Power of Now, has been one of the best books I have ever read.  At times, he seems to project his experience as a truth for everyone.  " Not knowing" for me has been very helpful.  Most of my behavior is unconscious. Warm and kind regards to everyone

On Mar 24, 2012 A wrote:
This is so precisely right-on that it's stunning. And the timing of reading this is perfect for me. Much gratitude to those who selected this week's reading!

Recently I've been musing a lot about how my outer world is a mirror of my inner state. In other words, so long as I'm not in touch with my essence, I project out my emptiness and look for it through external targets - people, things, projects - and compulsively try to fill my emptiness through futile attempts to engage or possess. The scope of this compulsion is sobering, and the consequences are inevitable suffering. With this reading, I'm seeing clearly that this dynamic necessarily includes my close relationships, as Tolle confirms so eloquently.

One more thought to share: When I go to, say, a Japanese art store, or visit a museum, or temple, a part of me wants to possess all of it, to hoard it, endlessly. Why? I discovered that what I'm really wanting is the feelings the art pieces or location evoke in me. Which can never be acquired through an external object, or even a "love" relationship. No matter where I go, who I'm with, what I'm doing...nothing can fill the authentic inner need. Searching externally is futile. Realizing this, I'm finding that by being present - by being in touch with my true essence - I can be fulfilled anywhere, with anyone, doing anything. This, I'm tasting, is freedom. It is love.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to reflect.

On Mar 24, 2012 Edit Lak wrote:
 So true, so true... Indeed, so true..
I have spent my life in failed relationships, because from an early age were taught to 'fall in love with people, right; But no one taught or teaches us how to 'love' though... The real heart love... The vision and feeling of love is corrupted before we even get a glimpse or a feeling into the word... Look at a child playing with other children, they love - unconditionally love and see from the pure Real love before us each day and we still have problems with it... So why do we as adults then put false pressures onto ourselves from media, advertising, social expectations, cultural requirement, beauty and sexual demands, we as adults really don’t help the cause of a true and loving world, Is it because most of the adults motives are about self, status and money... Even protecting a friend in an argument, or discussions, or an expressions, or in group event, or in just a working or living environment all come from ego... Some with big ego, some with smaller ego, but either way an ego – not consciousness - but ego... Look around the house, if one has a big TV in a standard size house - Why? If one has a robe full of shoes and clothes – Why? If one competes for anything - including the expectation of 'love' - Why? If one pushes a thought process without stopping, thinking, or indeed whilst judging, peter-stooling or word-smithing in a healthy and rich environment, one is then totally full of 'rubbish' and living in 'ego -  Ego has won and the person is only the robot to the functions and the commands of ego...   Having said that though; The ego is the greatest teacher – we just don’t know how to work within its boundaries..
To let go and not think of love, hate, words, insecurities, expectations is the answer... Am I qualified to express and example of how to do this - No, no I’m not... I have done a lot of self-work, and I still need to learn a lot more to let go, and whilst embracing death is great acceptance, or fighting cancer is a great teacher, it’s still not letting go, so, pretending to let go, or say to let go, or preach to let go is not actually letting go ...' letting go is 'love'  and that letting go is a fear driven, the big fear of what we will find in ourselves and love if we let go.... Until then, I learn and try to be the best I can with a human in-built fault and my own faults... But, I have seen Eckhart Tolle, and in 40 something years of my life I couldn’t still my mind, but in his presence I did that within 15 minutes, that was years ago, I thought it was a miracle... It wasn’t a miracle, it was real ‘the realness’ of no expectation, I learnt and saw, that if one doesn’t come from ego there is nothing left to pull or feed from that state and a smile automatically replaces any thoughts, That smile is love shining through :-)  ..... Ego only feeds ego and that is harmful - Let the smile win !!!.  :-)  I also learnt if one doest stay in that state of self love - the ego returns...   Much gratitude to all - Great Reflection... Thanks..

On Mar 26, 2012 Manisha wrote:
Although Eckhart Tolle uses the word "someone" throughout the text, what I found revealing is the last sentence where he uses "thing or person" almost synonymously, to suggest that various things are essentially equivalent to persons who are objectified by the ego as a strategy to avoid surrender. I read this passage a few times under different assumptions (e.g. thing, person, the many expressions of love, etc.) and it's really neat how, in the context of my life experiences, these varying assumptions all led me to the same place. I also appreciate how he expresses acceptance as a way to overcome the duality of love/hate. Thanks for sharing this lovely piece.

On Mar 26, 2012 Rajaram wrote:
Thanks, Eckhart.  I am currently going through this tremendous battle within.  Spent half my life looking for an achievement that will make people recognize and admire me.  Worked very hard, took up subjects that I did not probably enjoy just to achieve and be recognized as someone worthy and admirable.  Really burnt myself out, the more I achieved, the more it seemed inadequate as there was always someone more worthy than whatever I had achieved.

I am now an exhausted man.  Not sure what I must do next.  The desire to be admired keeps coming up (as I feel quite unworthy).  But the energy is not there.  Also the experience that after every achievement, there is still the feeling of unworthiness left, has removed the desire to chase more achievements.  I keep connecting with old friends, teachers, just about anyone who might make me feel worthy.  But no, while I can see that they enjoyed me getting back in touch, they could not give me the permanent sense of worthiness I was looking for.  As soon as I finished meeting them, the sense of unworthiness returned after some other unpleasant experience.

Clearly, this sense of "not enough" or "unworthiness" exists within, and not outside.  No matter what I do, or how high I get in life, this will not go.  Unless I let it go.  Unless I truly find my worthiness within, that is not related to anything that I achieved outside.

I am still looking for this completeness within.  Not sure when I will find it, but I am hoping sooner rather than later.

On Mar 27, 2012 Maitreyamind wrote:
 Yes, true love is unconditioned love.

On Mar 27, 2012 KaZ (SatSiri) wrote:
My love of Spirit is not subject to love/hate. It is pure and unconditional.  Intimate love is not the same.   A truly loving, unconditional love relationship is rare. 

On Mar 27, 2012 Ross wrote:
Looking outside seems so much easier and protects us from looking within. Ironically as boring and slow as it may be, the looking within ultimately may reveal the only thing that is continously with us. What we avoid knowing may not be as ugly as we fear, it may not save us but in reality nor would another human being, title or wealth. It may be just as ordinary and mundane as anything/anyone else OUT THERE. This is a major struggle for me, having chased many careers, lived in many countries, had relationships, married etc. I have crammed my brain with enough knowledge and skills to last many life times!! I have been practicing Buddhism theortically for 10 years, I say theoretically because the practice is hard, it is always easier to surf the net, watch a dvd or do anything that can fill the time you can be meditating. When I look back on some of my days to see what I did in place of meditation, the triviality is pretty amazing. we shall go on, hopefully and very slowly :)

On Mar 27, 2012 KaZ (SatSiri) wrote:
 Love your post Ross. Thanks for sharing that. Hard but necessary lessons to learn.  Those lessons have changed my life for the better.  Namaste.

On Mar 27, 2012 David Doane wrote:
 I very much like this reflection by Eckhart Tolle.  I think he is right on.  I think to feel romantically in love is a wonderful feeling to enjoy and hopefully is the foundation of an abiding love that as I grow becomes the surrender to the present that I think Tolle is talking about.  It is a surrender that I think involves detachment from trying to have or possess or control and embraces being true to my experience as I am with the other so that I and the other remain our independent true selves as we are together.  I think that's what Scripture refers to in advocating a love that sets us free.  I think that is what is meant by I love you not for who you are but for who I am when I am with you., ie, more myself.   A great man named Tom Malone said loosen the binds, tighten the bond.  That's love.  Finally, love is surrendering to and being  me as I am with another.  Love is  within me, and it's my choice as to whom I surrender to sharing that way of being with.   

On Mar 28, 2012 SK wrote:
 Very provoking piece of thought with some profound insights as others have alluded to. There is no doubt that the focus on ego leads to a path of disaster, while awareness and ease with oneself/subconscious processes mitigates the effects of the ego. great recipe for thought by Mr Tolle as usual.

But I also think that Mr Tolle takes the analogy a bit over the top by suggesting that if a person is singled out as special, it is necessarily a manifestation of discontent or strategy to avoid surrender.  The caveats of relationships with people (or things) that have been singled out as special are well delineated in this piece, but the same relationships can be also be very meaningful, rewarding and a source of content. It is difficult to view all relationships with people or things through this somewhat dark Eckhartian lens.

The definition of true love that is provided includes no wanting from your partner or any desire for the partner to change. Although seemingly lofty, this definition cannot stand the test of practical social interaction or any sense of progress. Desiring mutual respect and a positive change in your partner cannot be held antithetical to true love.

On Mar 29, 2012 Donna wrote:
 There is so much projection.  So much "universal pain".  So clear when I removed myself from the situation and also was able to process with the person I projected my pain onto.  And then being able to move away and work on ME.  Now I look forward to being "in love" truly. Truly in the present moment.  Thanks for the reminder of all the work I've been doing.  But then again, Eckhart Tolle has always been able to do that for me. =)

On Mar 29, 2012 Dinesh Mehta wrote:
 "Audio clip from this week's circle of sharing ..."

On Apr 13, 2012 ash ayesha wrote:
 i dont think so that loving someone means to want that person ,,, love should be unconditional , yes but wjhat you want should be love to achieve,,, . yes i have experienced unconditional pain that depicts that you allowed space to b hated. i do have experienced love which is out of possiveness and hate,,, i love the person very much so i absorb his hatess towards me. i believe on love without conditions

On May 6, 2012 Paul adale wrote:
 We attach ourselves to images of who we believe ourselves to be or not to be, in our arduous journey toward self recognition. If only I can get there, we tell ourselves, then I will be happy and my life complete. But, there is no getting there because the journey is the illusion that the self creates, in order to soothe the self of its imagined pain. The self, the journey, and the pain are but illusions. What then is real? The not self. The unguarded happiness found in not being, not doing. The silent revelation of uncommitted self, the place of being without " having to be". That place beyond the observed self, beyond the critical self, beyond the yearning self, beyond the unbelonged self, beyond the restless and ever wandering self. What is beyond these infinite mirrors of the reflected and refracted self? Unimaginable love, self acceptance, endless compassion, perfect understanding. Silent, still, watchful, beloved self. Who is this beloved self? It is all of us. One can almost see us all beyond the mirror. The all is infinite love, and therefore infinite being. You and me.

On Dec 9, 2012 Esperanza wrote:
Funny how when I read the passage above, I understood instinctively that the hatred/pain I've felt towards some of the people in my life stemmed from a feeling of 'not good enough'. I always thought of those people as having harmed me. I feel the anger and hatred renewed every time i revisit old memories or meet people who arouse similar emotions in me. I do want to be a gentle, loving person and quell that hatred in me. I used to blame my family for not 'saving me' and experienced guilt over blaming them and not being grateful etc. I think the underlying issue here is I wished I could have done something differently, stand on my feet, say what I wanted and hopefully 'saved' myself from my suffering. I hate myself for being a weakling and am angry at myself for my inaction and passivity. And now, I'm taking it out on my family through my blame and keeping them at a distance. It is lonely for them and for myself. I want to stop blaming and let go. I want to surrender to what is in the present moment :)

On Apr 23, 2013 Chronossa wrote:

I think the basic idea is that if we have to learn to love ourselves and to accept ourselves the way we are and after we have removed the false negative layers where the ego is hiding behind (like worry, doubt, fear etc-to name a few) we are able to love and to receive love without attachment...
I personally have experienced the full scenario that is described in this article.
But during the process to remove these layers- I have also learned to accept myself for who I am , where I am and what I have done.
And I have surrendered to that , as what is is and we can only change the future 'now'. I recently developed strong emotional feelings for someone and I desire a future with that person-but as I am enough with myself I won't need him and will accept whatever way this relationship will turn out to. Which in itself is a fantastic experience as my perception of reality has changed during the discovery of the ego and 'its' negative thoughts. So the way I feel now is different than in the past as I am enough to myself and won't seek  something that my ego was telling me I can find in another person. Of course I desire him physically as I would like to share my 'energies' with him and it is a nice thing to experience our hobbies together and to talk about more deeper things like the things in this article (:-).) but it is okay if that is never going to happen as I have got myself and as having a 'loving' partnership is not the only way to experience love as love (for me) is to be able to feel the energy from where we all came from and go to when we die. And that in itself is enough :-).
I have book marked this page and will come back here more often when it feels right :-)
Thank you for this article...

On Jun 26, 2013 Anila wrote:

 Beautifully explained and understood. Very humbled and grateful for your words.
Many Thanks

On Jun 26, 2013 Anila wrote:

 Hello Rajaram,
Thank you for your authentic reflection, I felt the same as you and still occasionally feel the same. I have come to the realization that it is not true. when I believe my thought of unworthiness, I suffer and when I see it for what it is (pain body) my suffering diminishes. It is pointless looking or searching and it is not an object to be found. We have to stop the doing and start being. Being present to what is, opens the door to spaciousness.

On Jun 26, 2013 Rajaram wrote:

 Bless you..

On Feb 12, 2014 Shiloh wrote:

 The old adage that you must learn to love yourself before you can love anyone else, has some much truth in it. Not just being alone but truly being ok with being alone, and even enjoying it. Giving yourself validation instead of requiring it from others will make time spent with others more genuinely about enjoying and loving the other person than taking from them. There is a line in a Gregory Alan Isakov song that says it so beautifully, "I would never say I love you dear, just to hear you say it back."

On Jan 10, 2015 Albert wrote:

 When I am hungry for a cheeseburger I don't get philosophical about it. I just know I like cheeseburgers and I want one, but not two. Tried that, it doesn't make the experience twice as good.